As of 2019, 37.9 million trucks (excluding farm and government vehicles) were registered for commercial use in the U.S. Every day these truckers load up their commercial vehicles for the long haul. Often these drivers are overtired, distracted, or driving in hazardous conditions. It takes just one fatigued or distracted truck driver to change your life forever.
If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one in a semi-truck accident, contact a personal injury lawyer at Nessler & Associates for a free consultation to learn how we can help. The effects of a truck accident can be long-lasting, and you may be entitled to restitution to pay for your medical care and other expenses.
Truck Accidents Cause Serious Injuries with Lifelong Impact
An 18-wheeler weighs 35,000 lbs. when empty and 80,000 lbs. when loaded, almost 20 times more than a passenger vehicle that weighs 4,156 lbs. on average. A catastrophic collision with a commercial truck can result in severe injuries and even wrongful death.
Severe and life-changing injuries or a fatal truck accident can further complicate your claim for compensation because, without expert help from a personal injury attorney, it can be challenging to predict how your injuries may impact the rest of your life.
Traumatic brain injury
During a truck crash, your brain can be jostled inside your skull, causing bruising, fluid buildup, and cranial bleeding. Even mild traumatic brain injuries can cause permanent personality changes and cognitive impairment.
These changes may affect your ability to do your job or maintain relationships. Traumatic brain injuries can be caused by impact trauma or rapid changes in direction.
Spinal cord injury
Spinal cord injuries can be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause. Swelling and inflammation may result in temporary weakness and decreased sensation.
Permanent injuries can cause paralysis, weakness, or reduced sensation for the rest of your life. These injuries result in a loss of enjoyment of life.
Blunt force trauma to the body often results in damage to your organs. Some organs can be safely removed, like the spleen, gall bladder, or a single kidney, but others require surgical repairs or a transplant, like your liver, heart, and intestines.
A truck crash can also result in internal bleeding, which can be challenging to detect without immediate medical attention. Always visit a healthcare practitioner after an automotive accident, even if you don’t have visible injuries.
Burns from hot vehicle parts or fires can cause excruciating pain. Repairing severe burns may take several surgeries such as debridement, skin grafts, and Z-plasty. Healing takes a long time and involves prolonged pain.
Simple fractures can heal completely in 4-6 weeks with a cast, but more complicated breaks may require surgery or amputation. Surgical repairs may include screws, pins, rods, cages, or bone grafts, and sometimes hardware must be removed years later.
Injuries and lacerations can leave disfiguring scars that affect your confidence for the rest of your life. Scars, especially on visible body parts, may impact your ability to hold a job or have a relationship.
Leading Causes of Truck Accidents
Commercial truck drivers face a lot of pressure from their trucking companies and customers to get loads delivered quickly. Trucking companies usually control and monitor routes with GPS units in the truck and set the hours of operation for the drivers. They sometimes delay maintenance or perform substandard maintenance.
A commercial driver may be at fault for not following traffic laws. If they don’t feel well, their concentration may be affected, and they may take medications that further affect their driving ability.
Some common causes of truck crashes include:
Improper maintenance is the most common cause of brake failure, meaning the truck owner or maintenance company could be liable. Brake failure could lead to a jackknife or rear-end accident, or the brakes could catch on fire.
Exceeding the speed limit or the safe speed for current road conditions is classified as driver error. Commercial drivers receive training on determining safe speeds for road conditions but may face pressure from their bosses or customers.
Drivers unfamiliar with roads can make mistakes while trying to navigate and drive. Looking at a phone or GPS screen or atlas while moving constitutes distracted driving. Some errors involve turning from the wrong lane or trying to stop and turn too quickly.
If a damaged road contributed to your accident, the jurisdiction responsible for maintenance of the road could be held liable. Potholes, large cracks, broken concrete, or exposed rebar could lead to tire damage, causing the vehicle to swerve into another traffic lane causing fatal injuries to occupants of a passenger vehicle.
OTC drug use
Some over-the-counter medications can cause disorientation behind the wheel, particularly cold and allergy medicine. They may cause drowsiness and dull reaction times.
Inadequate surveillance means a driver is in a situation where they need to look carefully to complete a maneuver safely, but they fail to do so. Backing, turning, and lane changes are the most common areas affected by inadequate surveillance.
Driver fatigue reduces reaction times and the ability to concentrate comparable to alcohol consumption. New federal safety regulations affect how many hours of service a driver can have in a day for most types of cargo, but some are excluded.
Property-carrying vehicles like commercial semi-trailers and trucks can only drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive off-duty hours. Drivers must also take a consecutive 30-minute break when driving for 8 cumulative hours.
Pressure from carrier
The trucking company can pressure the driver to complete a run faster or work longer, resulting in less careful driving. Trucking companies are supposed to abide by federal motor carrier safety regulations, but sometimes they push the boundaries of what is safe.
Illegal maneuvers include wrong-way driving, turning from the wrong lane, and illegal U-turns.
Driver inattention applies when the driver’s mind wanders and they stop concentrating on the road. Inattention is prevalent among commercial truck drivers who drive the same routes with little traffic or variation.
Anything that requires a driver to look away from the road poses a threat to safe driving. Some distractions include eating, talking on the phone, and changing radio stations.
Blown tires can cause trailer sway or steering trouble. Proper maintenance can usually prevent these, but the manufacturer may be liable if a tire is defective.
Driving too close to the vehicle in front of the truck means the truck can’t stop in time to avoid the vehicle if the vehicle has to brake. This leads to a rear-end collision.
Jackknife accidents are often caused by traveling too fast for road conditions, especially on icy roads. The truck slows down more quickly than the trailer, and the road conditions allow the trailer to slide to the side.
Improper loading or failure to secure the load can cause trailer sway, jackknife, or rollover accidents. In this case, whoever loaded the truck could be held liable.
Commercial Truck Accidents are Complex
Truck accidents in Illinois can be complicated with legal counsel because multiple negligent parties are often liable for the accident. Victims of truck accidents must prove someone’s negligent, careless, or reckless actions caused their injuries.
If the driver drove distracted, fatigued, or recklessly, they may be liable for damages. Activities like speeding, illegal maneuvers, tailgating, or distracted driving are considered negligent.
The truck company can share liability with the driver if the driver is an employee. Companies often try to skirt liability by claiming their drivers are contractors. Your personal injury attorney can determine the status of the driver by examining who controls hours and routes.
The trucking company can also be held liable if substandard or delayed maintenance caused your accident. Trucking companies have a duty of care to maintain their tractor-trailers to acceptable safety standards, but they sometimes cut corners to save money.
Manufacturers of defective equipment
Manufacturers of defective tires, trucks, or trailers may be held liable if faulty materials or workmanship contributed to the accident. Tread separation on a tire, broken welds, and defective electrical systems could constitute defective equipment.
Government responsible for the road
When the road is in severe disrepair and contributes to the accident, the jurisdiction responsible for maintaining that road can be held accountable. Road accidents can occur due to large potholes or cracks in the road, causing trucks to swerve dangerously.
Road disrepair can also damage a truck’s undercarriage, sever brake or fuel lines, and cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle.
People responsible for loading the truck
If a truck exceeds its maximum load capacity or the cargo is improperly balanced or secured, it is at a high risk of tipping, jackknifing, or brake failure. If these factors contributed to the accident, the people responsible for loading the shipment could be liable.
People loading cargo know the laws and regulations on weight and distribution, as well as how to secure different types of cargo and the cargo’s maximum height and width allowed for different vehicles.
If another driver’s actions contributed to the accident, they could be added to your truck accident lawsuit.
Determining the cause of trucking accidents and responsible parties is only part of the equation. The next step is determining the types of damages appropriate for your case.
Damages Available to Truck Accident Victims
Your personal injury law firm can advise you on the type of damages you can seek for your truck accident. Economic, non-economic, and punitive damages are the three main types.
Economic damages include all of your financial losses, including current and future medical expenses, lost wages, loss of ability to earn, modifications to your house and vehicle, and property damage. Monetary damages are straightforward but require documentation.
Current and future medical expenses cover ambulance rides, emergency treatment, hospital stays, follow-up visits, future surgeries and procedures, rehab, and physical therapy. Your medical records and doctor’s notes help determine this figure.
Damages received for lost wages can help compensate for the financial loss while you are recovering, and for work, you have to miss for appointments related to your injuries. If your injuries keep you from returning to work at the number of hours or level of responsibility you worked before the accident, you may be able to ask to be compensated for the difference in your income.
If your mobility has been affected, you may need to install ramps, widen doors, and install grab bars for your safety. Your vehicle may need to be modified to help you enter, exit, or operate the vehicle properly.
If your vehicle was damaged during the accident, you may be able to recover property damages.
Non-economic damages are harder to quantify, but an experienced attorney knows how and has experts to call on for advice. These damages include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium.
Pain and suffering include the physical pain, emotional trauma, discomfort, inconvenience, and mental anguish caused by your injuries.
Loss of enjoyment of life describes the impact your injuries have on your ability to perform your normal activities, including recreational activities, work, social activities, household chores, and physical intimacy.
Loss of consortium applies to wrongful death claims describing the impact of the loss of your loved one on your life and family. It includes loss of companionship and loss of guidance for your children.
Punitive damages punish the responsible parties in cases where they engaged in intentional misconduct or negligence so reckless it constitutes a conscious disregard for safety. Illinois caps punitive damages at triple the amount of economic and non-economic damages.
A legal team with extensive experience in commercial truck accidents can examine your case and get you the maximum compensation you deserve. Their combined expertise allows them to get the required information and use it effectively.
Can I File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit for a Truck Accident?
In Illinois, the deceased person’s family members cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death claim can only be filed by the executor of the deceased person’s estate.
The estate can sue for damages that cover financial losses associated with the wrongful death, such as the loss of financial support the deceased would have provided the family. They can also pursue damages for loss of consortium, loss of education the deceased would have provided for surviving family members, and survivor’s grief and mental anguish.
According to their level of dependency, the damages are awarded to the deceased’s estate and paid to their surviving spouse and next of kin.
A Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help
Truck accident lawyers know the tactics the trucking company’s insurance company will use to deny any claim, such as getting you to say something to the insurance adjuster that can get your claim denied or reduced. Hiring an attorney early in the process can help you navigate the complexities of Illinois personal injury law and prevent you from making costly mistakes with insurance adjusters.
Here’s how a truck accident lawyer at Nessler & Associates can help:
Investigate your crash
Your lawyer examines the accident scene using photographs, the police report, black box data, and witness statements. They interview witnesses, collect your medical records, investigate the truck driver and trucking company, and perform an accident recreation.
This investigation identifies all liable parties in your crash and provides evidence for use in negotiations or at trial.
Calculating a settlement
When calculating settlements for personal injury lawsuits, an experienced lawyer takes into account your emotional distress caused by catastrophic injuries, medical care for each severe injury, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
A personal injury attorney has a network of expert witnesses to advise settlement amounts and justify those amounts to a jury. These experts are helpful when quantifying non-economic damages.
Negotiating with the insurance company
An experienced truck accident attorney examines the insurance coverage of all at-fault parties and any limits on the insurance policy.
A law firm with truck crash experience knows the tricks these insurance carriers use to deny claims. They fight aggressively to get you the maximum compensation you deserve, and if the insurance company declines to offer a reasonable settlement, your lawyer can take them to trial.
Trying the case
Truck accident lawyers use the expert testimony of accident reconstructionists, medical experts, and economic experts to convince the judge or jury that the at-fault parties owe you compensation. They also use photographs of the accident scene, accident reports, and testimony of eyewitnesses and tie all of this information together.
Your Nessler & Associates truck accident lawyer helps you navigate this process and help you get a fair settlement, so you can focus on healing and getting your life back.
Hire an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer
At Nessler & Associates, our experienced truck accident attorneys possess the determination and skill to advocate for your rights. We have successfully represented personal injury victims in Illinois for more than 35 years.
In Illinois, there are strict deadlines for filing a personal injury lawsuit which is two years from the date of injury. For wrongful death, it is two years from the date of death. Once the statute of limitations has passed, you are ineligible to ask for compensation for your injuries.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a truck or 18-wheeler accident, contact our law firm at (800) 727-8010 to schedule your free case consultation and discuss your situation. We do not charge legal fees unless we win your case through a settlement or judgment.